Discussion of HB 370, a controversial state bill that would require sheriffs to enforce federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention requests, will be the main event at the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners regular meeting on Tuesday, July 16. The four Democratic board members — Chair Brownie Newman, Vice Chair Jasmine Beach-Ferrara and Commissioners Amanda Edwards and Al Whitesides — have all signed letters asking state officials to withhold their support from the proposal.
In February, Democratic Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller announced that his office would no longer honor ICE detainers, stating that such requests are voluntary and not valid legal warrants. Detainers request that inmates suspected of being present in the country illegally be held up to 48 hours after their scheduled release so ICE agents can take them into custody and begin federal deportation proceedings.
Responding to Miller and other sheriffs who have refused to cooperate with ICE, Republican members of the N.C. General Assembly passed HB 370, which empowers Superior Court judges to remove sheriffs who do not comply with detainers from office. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper opposes the bill and has called it “unconstitutional” but has not yet issued a veto.
“Because these detainers are not tied to criminal cases, they would require local sheriffs to hold individuals without probable cause, in violation of their constitutional rights,” the Buncombe board members wrote. “Making sheriffs comply erodes the community trust in local law enforcement, decreases the voluntary reporting of crime and spreads fear throughout our immigrant communities.”
Materials available before the meeting did not include responses to HB 370 from any of the board’s three Republican members: Mike Fryar, Joe Belcher and Robert Pressley. However, WLOS reported on July 1 that Fryar was in support of the bill.
“As far as me, I have no issues with it,” Fryar said. “Whatever laws there are should be enforced, if that’s the way it’s laid out.”
In other business
Commissioners have a light agenda outside of the HB370 discussion. In anticipation of World Breastfeeding Week, Thursday-Wednesday, Aug. 1-7, the board will issue a proclamation in support of breastfeeding and accept nearly $19,500 in breast pumps and accessories as a donation from Asheville-based Motif Medical. Buncombe County Health and Human Services, as well as community partner groups, will distribute the supplies to mothers in need.
The board will also vote to designate Newman as Buncombe County’s voting delegate at the upcoming annual conference of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners. If approved, he will be able to vote on all items presented at the meeting, including election of the NCACC’s second vice president.
Finally, commissioners will hear a presentation from Western Carolina Rescue Ministries about its Abba’s House opioid treatment program. The nonprofit won a 2019 National City Gate Award for the project, which provides safe housing for women who are recovering from substance abuse and their children.
The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains eight items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include resolutions to:
- Release county residents and businesses from over $15,000 in property taxes. The released taxes include nearly $13,500 “assessed in error” for Best Operations Inc., which runs many of the region’s McDonald’s restaurants; Joyce Neal, a property appraiser with the county, said those bills should not have been charged because the company is appealing assessments on previously unreported business assets.
- Approve a $120,030 contract with CliftonLarsonAllen LLP to conduct the county’s fiscal year 2018-19 audit. The firm also performed Buncombe’s audit for fiscal year 2017-18, which principal Bill Early said was “grueling” due to the “extenuating circumstances” of fraud among former county leadership, staff turnover and the county’s implementation of a new financial system. CliftonLarsonAllen exceeded its original deadline for that audit by over six months and cost the county roughly $233,000 more than initially budgeted.
- Add John Kraus Way, an access road for the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s Beale Road subdivision in Arden, to the N.C. Department of Transportation’s secondary road system. Board clerk Lamar Joyner confirmed that the road was filed and recorded under that spelling with the NCDOT, although petition submitted by Habitat uses the spelling “Jon Kraus Way.”
The board will hold a pre-meeting at noon in the first floor conference room of the same building. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.